As we worry about the missing Erica Wills, we who care have only one cry: we hope that by the grace of God, Erica is safe somewhere, and has not fallen to the ill fate of the other six young girls whose families still mourn their loss.
Born in Inglewood, California, 12-year-old Courtenay Gillett is a girl of high aspirations, and, like many other young girls and boys across the country, an asset to this nation.
Courtenay moved back to Belize with her parents Ann and Lincoln Gillett 8 months after she was born in the U.S. They came back to Belize to settle in Burrell Boom, where the family has lived since.
Courtenay spent most of her primary school years at Burrell Boom Methodist School. She moved to All Saint?s School in her final year of primary school.
The change from a village to a city school was good for Courtenay. While she ranked second in her last year at the Burrell Boom Methodist School, she placed 5thin her final year at All Saints, and got an impressive 96.34 percentile in the BNSE.
Science, she says, is her favorite subject because to her, it is fun and interesting, and she likes learning about ?cool stuff? like atoms.
Courtenay is not quite sure what she wants to be yet, but two definite possibilities for her are a pediatrician and a scientist.
Singing, dancing and drama are among her hobbies. Courtney also wants to refine her artistic talents.
In September, she will be attending Pallotti High School, where she will be guided by her mom, Ann Gillett and her sister, Shannon Gillett, who are both teachers at the institution.
Courtenay plays the violin. She hopes that as a student at Pallotti, she will be able to visit Canada to attend music school in the near future.
But, already, Courtenay has had significant accomplishments in the arts. Courtenay and her classmates at the Burrell Boom Methodist School have been awarded one gold and two silver awards in the Festival of Arts.
This year, she did her first solo performance, when she recited the poem, Nothing, by Erwin Jones. Based on her excellent performance, Courtney was celebrated as the Most Promising Student in Drama on June 5, 1999.
It was probably because her heart was in it. At first, Courtenay says, she was given a poem in English, but she told her teacher that she preferred a number in Creole. She mastered the delivery of her number.
This young talent also mastered the delivery of a ?rap? in my recently released song, Hush Baby. If you ever hear the song, the young voice that says, ?Under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Belize is obligated to protect us from sexual exploitation and abuse?? ? that?s the captivating voice of 12-year-old Courtenay Gillett.
I asked Courtenay what her advise is to other young girls out there, in light of the recent issues facing girls her age. She replied: ?Keep yourself out of the way of those people?stay far! Young men take notice of how they are dressed? I would say dress properly?some girls like to flirt and whine, but the people who they want to get to watch them don?t notice them; the wrong people notice.? Courtenay adds that she feels discipline is important. ?Don?t talk to strangers,? she warns.
(This year, Courtenay, a former St. John?s Junior College Student, won the Belize Open Scholarship 2005 for ranking first in the Belizean candidates in Cambridge International Examinations for her performance in Literatures in English and General Paper.
She is currently studying at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her major is English and her minor is music. She still loves to fiddle with her violin and other forms of expressive art.)
Ed. Note: This reprint was selected to coincide with this week?s edition with FOCUS: Our Children.